Testimony given by Matthew Anderson on February 24, 2017, in support of HCR 1 (Concurrent Resolution to Secure the Perpetual Health and Vitality of Utah’s Public Lands and Its Status as a Premier Public Lands State) before the House Natural Resources, Agriculture and Environment Standing Committee of the Utah Legislature.
Good morning, representatives. My name is Matt Anderson and I am a policy analyst for the Coalition for Self-Government in the West, a project of Sutherland Institute.
Utah is a public lands state and always will be. Unfortunately, this fact has become muddled and often drowned out by strident voices. The state’s efforts to transfer more than 30 million acres of federally controlled lands to state control is NOT about selling public lands off to the highest bidder, dotting every inch of the state in oil and gas wells, or wanting cattle to run rampant across our state’s pristine landscapes. Utah loves its public lands and all Utahns want these places open and accessible.
Local control and conservation are not mutually exclusive. Giving Utah the ability to manage federally controlled public lands will improve the environment and bring more recreational opportunities to the state. From the federal government’s inability to properly defend our national forests from the devastating effects of catastrophic wildfire to the U.S. Forest Service closing roads across the state, federal land management is not working. The state and its people have an unparalleled love for and knowledge of our public lands. This best positions us to care for their well-being.
And we have shown this time and again. Our state has 43 state parks and is paving the way to bring that number to 45 this legislative session. We have the largest watershed and wildlife habitat restoration program in the nation. Utah created the first Office of Outdoor recreation in the country.
Perhaps most importantly, the Utah Land Management Policy Act passed last legislative session sets a plan in place for transferred federal lands ensuring that fish and wildlife development, wilderness conservation and outdoor recreation will be part of the multiple-use management model employed by our state. This law declares that it is the policy of the state to keep public lands in public hands, affirming our state’s commitment to securing conservation and promoting the types and quality of recreational opportunities we desire.
This resolution, as its name suggests, will help secure the perpetual health and vitality of our public lands and ensure a vibrant future for all Utahns.